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  • Hitotsubashi University Repository

    Title Dynamics of the Buddhist Revival Movement in South

    China: State, Society, and Transnationalism

    Author(s) Ashiwa, Yoshiko

    Citation Hitotsubashi journal of social studies, 32(1): 15-


    Issue Date 2000-07

    Type Departmental Bulletin Paper

    Text Version publisher

    URL http://doi.org/10.15057/8313


  • Hitotsubashi Journal of Social Studies 32 (2000), pp.15-3 1 . C The Hitotsubashi Academy




    I . Introduction

    A resurgence of Buddhism has been occurring in China since 1979. This is surprising

    given harsh state policies towards religion in the preceding decades. After coming to power the

    Communist Party gradually restricted religious practice and institutions. During the 1950s

    smaller Buddhist temples were taken over by various public entities for factories, schools,

    recreation halls and military sites, while younger nuns and monks were compelled to disrobe

    and marry, and older ones were gathered in larger temples for reeducation. During the Cultural Revolution all religious activity was labeled "feudal superstition," temples were sealed

    and defaced by Red Guards, and old monks and nuns were forced into menial jobs (Welch 1972). By the late 1970s there were no openly operating religious sites while existing religious

    practice was furtive and underground. In 1979 state policies changed from suppressing religion

    to recognizing its legitimacy. Since then Buddhism has not only revived but is flourishing as

    temples are rebuilt, new clergy trained, and rituals performed.

    This revival is especially dynamic in Fujian province. The province's estimated 4,000

    Buddhist temples, nuns and monks constitute about half of all Buddhist temples and clergy in

    China.* Temples once occupied by local governments and public units have been reclaimed by

    Buddhists and rebuilt. Steady streams of worshippers and tourists to major temples rise to

    torrents of tens of thousands during such festival days as Guan Yin's birthday. This flourishing

    has been noted by Chinese and foreign observers alike. The historian Arthur Waldron writes:

    "Today, southern and southeast China in particular are alive with Buddhist observances and

    young monks and nuns and pilgrims of all ages are in evidence - some of them communist

    cadres who have turned to Buddha - and delight in the freedom to travel, share fellowship and

    devotion, and perhaps acquire some scared souvenirs" (Waldron 1998: 131 ). Researchers from

    the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences have commented on the marked economic self-

    * n earher version of this article appeared in Japanese as "Chuugoku Nanbu ni okeru Bukkyou Fukkou no

    Doutai: Kokka, Shakai, Transnationalism" in Shakai-Kokka tono Kyousei Kanket (Gendai Chuugoku no Kouzou

    Hendou. 5), ed. Hishida Masaharu, pp. 239-274 (Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku Shuppankai). I would like to acknowl-

    edge the collaboration of David L. Wank and assrstance of Pan Hongli in conducting the research on which this

    article is based. The research was supported by grants from the Monbusho International Scientific Research

    Program and the Research and Writing Initiative of the Program on Global Security and Sustainabllity of the

    John D, and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. [ These figures refer on]y to Han Buddhlsm and do not include the Lama Buddhism of the Tibetan and

    Mongolian minorities or the Pali Buddhism of southern minorities such as the Dai in Yunnan Province.


    sufficiency of the region's temples (Luo 1991: 170-1 82). And the Catholic priest and specialist

    of Chinese religion Donald Maclnnis singled out Nanputuo Temple, in the commercial city of

    Xiamen, as the "most vibrantly active temple I visited" (Maclnnis 1989: 124) during a tour of

    three provinces.

    Explanations of this revival view it, explicitly or otherwise, as a shift in state and society

    relations. The transformation since 1979 of a Maoist state pursuing class struggle into a

    developmentalist state seeking market-led economic growth has been accompanied by more

    liberal social and cultural policies that have tolerated such once proscribed institutions as

    religion, rituals, and popular traditions (Anagnost 1994, Siu 1989, Stockwell 1993). The few

    scholars who focus on southeast China's religious fiourishing attribute it to the region's

    extensive links to overseas Chinese which provide economic support and enhance local

    government tolerance (Dean 1993, 1998; Madsen 1998).

    This chapter explains southeast China's Buddhist revival movement by merging a state-society analysis with a transnational perspective. The former highlights consequences in

    state policy and ideology for societal actors and the actions of societal actors to expand their

    autonomy and legitimacy, both through self-organization and bargaining with the state. The

    latter focuses on networks of resources and perceptions traversing sovereign borders. My

    explanation, drawing on overlapping concerns within these two perspectives, emphasizes how

    transnational networks between a locale in southeast China and overseas Chinese communities

    affect local state-society relations in the context of the Buddhist revival. In the next section I

    critically examine several explanations of religious fiourishing in south China and sketch my

    own framework. Subsequent sections shall; examine the historical context that stimulated the

    growth of Xiamen's Buddhist community and subsequent emigration of master monks to the

    Chinese diaspora; the central state perceptions and policies since 1979 in regard to overseas

    Chinese, economy, and religion, and the especially liberal local government interpretations in

    southeast China; sketch the revival of Xiamen's Buddhist community in the context of these

    liberal policies; describe the transnational financial and personnel movements between Xiamen

    and overseas Chinese locales that help constitute the revival; consider the somewhat ambigu-

    ous implications of these transnational practices for the legitimacy of Xiamen's Buddhist

    activities in the eyes of the local government; and discuss theoretical implications in conclu-

    sion. My data draws on interviews and documents obtained in fieldwork in Xiamen. Fujian's

    main commercial city, and visits to other areas in China in 1989-90, return trips to Xiamen in

    1995, 1998, and 1999, and visits to temples in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and Singapore

    with links to Xiamen in 1993, 1994, 1997, and 1998.

    II . Theoretical Considerations

    State-society explanations that focus on south China's religious flourishing are either too

    generalized and ahistorical to explain the dynamics of the local revival or do not consider

    broader institutional systems of organization and legitimacy in which state and religious actors

    are embedded. Richard Madsen's account of China's Catholic revival reflects the former

    tendency. Although primarily based on fieldwork in north China's Hubei Province, Madsen

    also notes the greater vitality of the Catholic resurgence in the south. He attributes this to a

    confiuence of factors: "the south - especrally the southern coastal areas rs more prosper


    ous,has a greater variety of ties to the outside world,and is less constrained by the hgid

    political control of the Party center in Beijing”(Madsen1998:20).Madsen maintains that

    these factors enhance the autonomy of the southem Church from the state and promote unity

    within the Church.However,Madsen never explains how these factors are connected to each

    other,instead treating them as variations within a national state-society framework(i.e.poor

    versus wealthy,1ess versus more state control,less versus more outside ties).My basic position

    is that a more powerful explanation of the southeast revival can be obtained by taking this

    regional revival as the object of explaination rather than deriving an explanation ex po3∫ノbcfo

    of the revival as variations on national state-society processes.Towards this end I more

    carefully consider local history and its interaction with nationa豆and global processes.

        The local focus of Kemeth Dean’s study of the revival of Taoism and popular cults in

    Fujian overcomes these problems ofMadsen’s account but raises further problematics.Dean

    argues that local Fulian govemments see the revival of religious activities as a way to obtain

    revenue from wealthy overseas Chinese believers who come to participate in religious activities

    (Dean l993:5).Due to this strong economic int


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